Social Events and DUIs: When the Party’s Over

January 12, 2010

Here’s something not generally included in lists of DUI frequently asked questions: in most states, if you’re serving alcohol to guests in your home, you can be held responsible for what happens to your drunk friends after the party’s over. Whether they end up in a hospital emergency room after tripping and falling, or crashing into another car while driving home, you can be sued. In fact, even if your friend doesn’t sue you, anyone they injure in a car accident could.

For this reason, if you have assets to protect, and live in a state where social hosts are liable for their guests’ after-party behavior, you must have adequate liability insurance coverage.

According to a 2008 report from the Insurance Information Institute, thirty-seven states have some kind of “social host” law on their books, or have set a legal precedent allowing you to be found liable if a guests injure themselves or others as a result of consuming alcohol at your party. Some of the laws have conditions – in Nevada and South Carolina, for example, you’re only liable if your party guests are under the age of 21.

If you’re like many people, or roughly one-third of homeowners, according to the Indepenent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA), you never knew you could be held responsible for friends who over-indulge at your home, but the good news is, if you have homeowners insurance, the liability coverage protects you against such losses.

Says IIABA spokesperson Margarity Tapia, “We found that people didn’t understand what their homeowners insurance covers and that they could be held responsible when someone leaves their home intoxicated.”

Do you live in a state that holds you liable for alcohol-related accidents and injuries? Here’s the list of states where such laws are in force:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The remaining states, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., do not have social host liability hosts on the books.

Source: Insurance Information Institute, as of October 2008